Tried-and-true trimmings

The menu for our Thanksgiving dinner has settled in very nicely through the years. We begin dinner with shrimp cocktail because the shrimp can be cooked the day before and kept in the refrigerator. I usually prepare an assortment of vegetables and side dishes. Sometimes I vary the recipe a bit but don’t stray too far from tradition.

Sweet potatoes, a New World food, can be peeled, cubed, boiled and turned into mashed sweet potatoes. Because I sometimes make regular mashed potatoes with lots of butter and cream, I prefer to boil them and serve them with a slightly sweet glaze. Brown sugar and maple syrup are good choices for sweet potatoes. Parsnips are best after the first frost and come into season right around Thanksgiving. Although they can be roasted with olive oil or butter, they are especially good with honey, maple syrup and brown sugar, because they have a sweet taste once they are roasted. Parsnips also marry well with carrots, which can be pan-roasted along with them.

Brussels sprouts can be bitter if they are too big, so search out the tiniest ones you can find. I always buy my Brussels sprouts from Ben Kauffman in the Reading Terminal Market. They are about the size of a thumbnail and can be enhanced by caramelized shallots, saut�ed mushrooms and crisp pancetta or prosciutto di Parma.

I never make a tossed salad for Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes I will prepare a relish tray of crisp raw vegetables and always include an assortment of olives. Fennel is truly delicious during the autumn and winter months. Sometimes I braise it for a hot side dish or create a salad with crisp raw fennel, sliced mushrooms and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Because we are all busy on Thanksgiving morning — I never miss the parade and always watch it on the Ben Franklin Parkway — I like side dishes and vegetables that can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. I prefer not to freeze side dishes because we all like the clear, crisp tastes of fresh vegetables.

Here are recipes to enhance the Thanksgiving turkey.

Apricot-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
From The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky


3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots


Steam the potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes, until tender, or boil them in enough salted water to cover them for 12 to 15 minutes, until tender. Drain well.

To make the apricot glaze, place the water, syrup, brown sugar and orange juice in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about one minute. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for five minutes or until slightly thickened and syrupy. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the glaze to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five to seven minutes. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it rests. Pour the glaze over the sweet potatoes and stir to mix well.

Serves four to six.

Note from Phyllis: Recipe can easily be doubled.

Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots


2 pints fresh tiny Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 fat shallots, peeled and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Wash the Brussels sprouts. Place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about five to 10 minutes or until slightly tender. Drain well and set aside.

Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in the same saucepan. Add the shallots and saut� for about five to eight minutes or until the shallots are translucent. Return the Brussels sprouts to the saucepan and toss to coat well. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. You might wish to add a little more olive oil. Toss again.

Serves six.

Note from Phyllis: Recipe can easily be doubled. There are a number of delicious variations for this Brussels sprouts recipe. You can saut� about 1/4-pound of sliced pancetta, which is a tasty unsmoked bacon from Italy, and add it to the Brussels sprouts when ready to serve. Cook it just as you would regular bacon. Or you can take about three or four thin slices of imported prosciutto di Parma, sliced into bite-sized pieces, and crisp it in a frying pan. If you like mushrooms, saut� about 1/2-pound of white button mushrooms or shiitakes or a mixture of both in 3 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add them to the Brussels sprouts. Finally, chestnuts are delicious with this vegetable. Buy a 1-pound jar of vacuum-packed whole unsweetened chestnuts, cut each one in half and add them to the Brussels sprouts when ready to serve. Just make sure they are heated through.

Crisp Fennel Salad


4 fennel bulbs, washed and sliced
1 pound white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano


Place the fennel and mushrooms in a pretty serving bowl. Add the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss well. Top the salad with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can use a vegetable peeler to make the shavings.

Serves six.

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots


1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 3-inch strips
1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 3-inch strips
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the parsnips and carrots in a baking dish. Add the olive oil and toss well. Make sure the parsnips and carrots are well slicked with enough oil. You may wish to add a few more tablespoons. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the carrots and parsnips in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and check for doneness. They should be tender but not overcooked.

Serves six to eight.

Cran-Apple Raspberry Chutney
From The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky


1 pound fresh cranberries, finely chopped
2 tart green apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed and drained well
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint


Place all the ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Fold in the mint and serve.

Makes 6 cups.

Note from Phyllis: This is a nice change from plain cranberry sauce.